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State v. Husban

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 21, 2017

State
v.
Quandell Husban

         Providence County Superior Court P1/13-725BG Associate Justice Robert D. Krause

          For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General

          For Defendant: Jeffrey Biolchini, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Robinson, Flaherty, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Suttell, Chief Justice

         On July 30, 2012, three persons were brutally murdered in the Arbor Glen housing complex in Providence during an attempted robbery that took a tragic turn. Michael Martin, the primary target of the robbery, was shot nine times in the kitchen of his apartment. Damien Colon was shot once in the chest, and Shameeka Barros, who had been sleeping on a couch in the living room, was shot several times as the intruders fled the apartment.

         Quandell Husband (defendant or Husband), then sixteen years old, was initially identified as the sole shooter. Following a waiver hearing in the Family Court, a Family Court justice waived that court's jurisdiction over the juvenile. Subsequently, new information came to light and the state's theory of the case indicated that Husband was not the shooter. He was nevertheless indicted, tried, and convicted of three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we vacate the judgment of conviction.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The state filed a petition of delinquency in Family Court against Husband, charging him with the following offenses: three counts of first-degree murder for the murders of Martin, Barros, and Colon; three counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence; and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery. The state also moved to waive the Family Court's jurisdiction. On September 28, 2012, the Family Court hearing justice found probable cause to believe that Husband had committed the offenses charged; and, on October 19, 2012, the Family Court waived its jurisdiction over the juvenile based on the heinous and premeditated nature of the offenses. Husband was subsequently indicted by a Providence County grand jury on the same charges that were the subject of the Family Court delinquency petition.

         A jury trial commenced on July 9, 2014. The state's narrative was primarily established by Donovann Hall.[1] Hall testified that he knew one of the victims, Martin, because Hall bought a "quarter" (seven grams) of marijuana from Martin every day. Martin lived with Barros and her two children. Hall occasionally hung out, smoked, and played video games with Martin and Colon at Martin's apartment. While at Martin's apartment, Hall noticed that Martin had a lot of money and marijuana, and he observed where Martin kept the money and marijuana. In July 2012, Hall formed the idea to rob Martin. Hall brought the idea to Tim DeBritto and, in the presence of Russell Burrell, [2] told DeBritto that he had a "lick" in mind and, according to Burrell's testimony, that they could get a couple of pounds of marijuana and maybe "a couple thousand" dollars.[3] Two days later, on July 30, 2012, at DeBritto's house, Hall asked DeBritto if he was "down to doing [the robbery]" and DeBritto responded that he was. DeBritto also told Burrell to do the robbery with Hall. Burrell testified that DeBritto was his cousin and a very close friend. The three of them then went outside, Burrell leading the way, with a black, 9mm firearm in his hand. According to Burrell, DeBritto stayed behind. Hall identified the murder weapon as a black, Glock, 9mm handgun, with a red "light under the gun."

         According to Hall and Burrell, defendant showed up at DeBritto's house just as they were leaving to rob Martin. Hall testified that he was surprised that Burrell invited defendant to participate because Hall had first met defendant when defendant robbed him for marijuana at gunpoint a couple of months earlier. In an earlier police interview, Burrell said that he told defendant about the robbery and that, at first, defendant did not want to participate but that he eventually "came around." At trial, however, Burrell explained that everything he had said about defendant during the interview was not true, and he testified that defendant was "never" at Martin's apartment. Dakota Snell, Burrell's acquaintance, also testified that she was at DeBritto's house that evening and saw DeBritto, Burrell, and Hall wearing black hoodies, but that she did not see defendant there. According to Hall and Burrell, when they arrived at Martin's apartment, Hall rang the doorbell or knocked on the window, and told Martin that they wanted to buy some "weed." Martin invited them to enter. Inside, Colon was at the kitchen table; and Barros was lying down, asleep, on the living room couch. Burrell suddenly pulled out the gun and said, "You know what time it is" and asked, "where's the shit?" According to Burrell, Martin pointed and said it was in the drawer. Hall and Burrell testified that, as Hall looked through the drawer, Burrell shot Martin.[4] Hall also testified that, while this was happening, defendant was looking in a bedroom. Burrell then shot Colon in the chest and shot Barros several times. According to Burrell, Hall said, "Gotta kill her", and Burrell gave Hall the gun and he shot her a final time. Hall testified, however, that he ran out of the apartment as soon as the first shot was fired. Hall testified that he stated, "it wasn't supposed to happen like that" and that defendant responded, "Shit happens."

         Hall and Burrell both testified that Hall then obtained a ride to the home of Ivy Copeland.[5] Hall testified that he told Copeland that the robbery he had planned "didn't go the right way." Copeland testified that Hall confided the details of the robbery to her, implicating himself and Burrell, and explained that DeBritto was the shooter. Copeland said that Hall never mentioned defendant's participation. Seventeen shell casings were recovered from the crime scene, all of which were 9 millimeter.

         Two witnesses also testified that they saw defendant going to 151 General Street, the crime scene location, and leaving that location after shots were fired. Jose Hernandez testified that he knew defendant from playing basketball and from attending programs at the Wanskuck Boys and Girls Club with him. Hernandez testified that, on the night of July 30, 2012, he heard eight or nine gunshots and saw defendant and Burrell put their hoods on and start running across General Street. He also testified that, when the police originally interviewed him, he said he was not sure if he had seen defendant because he was afraid of defendant. Emily Molina also testified that, on that evening, she saw Burrell and defendant walking nearby from outside her window moments before she heard gunshots and that they were both wearing black hoodies. She further testified that she looked out her front door and saw Burrell and defendant walking in the opposite direction from which she had seen them walking before the gunfire.

         In addition, Lewis Smith, defendant's grandfather, testified that he was in his living room watching wrestling the evening of the murders. Smith claimed that, between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., defendant was at home and stayed mostly in his bedroom.

         Johnathan Anderson testified that, in June 2012, Burrell and defendant went to Anderson's house and that defendant wanted to do pushups. Anderson recalled that defendant asked him to hold a black 9mm handgun he was carrying so he could do the pushups. At a police interview, Burrell corroborated that he and defendant had gone to Anderson's house and identified that particular gun as the murder weapon.

         Finally, a fellow inmate of defendant, Ricardo Vasquez, told police that, while in prison, defendant told him that he and Burrell had been "put on" to a robbery for marijuana and money, that they had been given a gun, and that Burrell shot two men and a woman. He also explained that Burrell threw defendant "under the bus" and had "pretty much told on him, " even though police had no other evidence against him.

         The jury convicted defendant on all seven charges, and the trial justice denied defendant's motion for a new trial. On December 11, 2014, the Superior Court sentenced defendant to three concurrent life sentences for first-degree murder, three concurrent life sentences for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence (to be served consecutively to the murder sentences), and ten years of incarceration for conspiracy (to be served consecutively to the firearm sentences). The defendant timely appealed.

         II

         Waiver of Jurisdiction

         A

         Meaningful Review

         On appeal, defendant contends that the Family Court violated his due process rights by waiving jurisdiction without a meaningful review. Specifically, defendant argues that the Family Court erred (1) "by focusing on the nature of the charges rather than the nature of [defendant]'s conduct, " (2) by "wrongfully refus[ing] to vacate the waiver even when the Attorney General abandoned its claim that [defendant] was the shooter, " and (3) "by failing to consider [defendant]'s background and potential for rehabilitation."

         1

         Standard of Review

         "This Court employs 'a de novo standard [w]hen reviewing an appeal based on an alleged error of law.'" In re Estate of Griggs, 63 A.3d 867, 869 (R.I. 2013) (quoting Warwick Sewer Authority v. Carlone, 45 A.3d 493, 498 (R.I. 2012)).

         2

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